Research has demonstrated that sexual violence on college campuses is a prevalent problem. One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. Exposure to sexual violence has been associated with a variety of negative mental health outcomes such as humiliation and fear.
Bystander interventions, which focus on men and women as bystanders to change social norms that support violent behaviors, have been developed to help prevent sexual violence on college campuses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use the social-ecological model to better understand the effect of potential prevention strategies. Based on this model, faculty can play a role at the individual and relationship levels to recognize, discourage, and prevent a culture that enables sexual violence. The purpose of this study is to explore university faculty members’ rape-supportive beliefs and bystander attitudes and behaviors.
An exploratory study using a cross-sectional, survey design was used to examine if group differences affect rape myth acceptance levels and bystander attitudes and behaviors among university faculty. An online survey was administered to a non-probability, convenience sample of 160 (110 female and 50 male) faculty from a mid-sized, central university in the US. The Updated Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale and The Bystander Attitudes Scale – Revised were used to assess rape myth acceptance and bystander attitudes. The Bystander Behaviors Scale – Revised was used to assess bystander behaviors. Demographic characteristics were also collected. Descriptive statistics, sample frequencies, and one sample t tests were computed for the three scales. Independent samples t tests were computed to assess differences by gender on the three scales. A correlation analysis was performed to examine the relationship between rape myth acceptance and bystander attitudes and behaviors. The study received university human subject approval.
Overall, the sample displayed high levels of rape myth acceptance as the sample mean score of 30.33 (SD 9.31) was significantly lower than the mid-point of 66, t(131) = −44.03, p < .001. The sample mean of 114.81 (SD 15.94) for the bystander attitudes scale was significantly higher than the mid-point of 81, indicating a significantly greater willingness to intervene as a positive bystander, t(134) = 24.64, p < .001. The sample mean of 9.10 (SD 10.91) for the bystander behaviors scale was significantly lower than the mid-point of 27, indicating significantly more engagement in prosocial bystander behaviors, t(131) = −18.85, p < .001. Results also showed a significant difference between females (M = 10.65, SD = 12.64) and males (M = 6.20, SD = 5.62) on bystander behavior scores, t(130) = 2.27, p = .025. Males engaged in prosocial bystander behaviors more than females. Acceptance of rape myths was negatively related to willingness to intervene, r = -.35, p < .001.
Conclusion and Implications
The results of this study will help guide the continued development and implementation of a faculty-focused, bystander prevention initiative on campus. Faculty-focused bystander intervention programs should include content on rape myths as well as focus on the role of gender when engaging in prosocial bystander behaviors.